I met McCall Dempsey over the summer at our Almost Anorexic signing at Harvard Book Store. My coauthor, clinical psychologist Jennifer J. Thomas, and I had invited McCall to share her recovery story as a part of our special event. When McCall spoke, I was amazed at her ability to share with both eloquence and ease—all the while inspiring everyone in the room. But, according to McCall, sharing her story publicly wasn’t always so easy. Read about her her powerful transformation and recovery below. To share your dream big story, click here.
This post is one in a Life Without Ed Birthday Blog Series celebrating both recovery and the Tenth Anniversary Edition of the book, which was just released.
In March, stay tuned for the audio book.
Message from McCall
Dream big? How about dream HUGE? How about dream a dream so massive you can’t even imagine it?
When I was in the grips of my eating disorder, dreams did not exist. I lived inside a silent nightmare, surviving day to day. I was a seemingly ‘normal’ girl on the outside with a deadly secret: I was killing myself to find perfection. Perfection was my dream. My nightmare.
After fifteen years, my body and mind could not take it anymore. On December 14, 2010, I admitted myself to the Carolina House, a residential treatment center in North Carolina. I placed my faith, trust and life into the caring hands of the treatment team. Upon discharge three months later, I made a silent promise to one day pay it forward. I had no idea how I would fulfill such a vow, but I knew that I would. That silent promise became my dream and eventually my life’s work and mission.
Living with Ed is like walking around with duct tape over your mouth. Even though I am wildly extraverted, Ed muted me and controlled my every thought and decision. My time in treatment helped me remove the duct tape (ouch!) and find MY voice. As I continued down the beautifully imperfect path of recovery, I began to discover who I was. I learned I had a favorite color and even rediscovered my passion for music. But most of all, a writer was unearthed from inside of me. I never considered myself to be a writer. Ed always told me I was not smart enough, so I only wrote in my journals, never sharing them with a soul.
Six months after leaving treatment, something propelled my fingers to click away and start my blog, Loving Imperfection. Despite being on the road to recovery, I kept my blog a secret in fear of judgment. A year later, my best friend posted my blog to Facebook. I almost died thinking about my thousand Facebook friends knowing I had an eating disorder and even worse that I wrote about it! But I was quickly proven wrong. The response was extraordinary. Long lost friends and even strangers messaged me thanking me for sharing my story because it was nice to know they weren’t alone in their struggles.
I continued to write and put myself out there. Each time I hit submit on a blog post was like running naked down the street. The vulnerability was unbearable, yet so liberating. Recovery led me to discover MY voice and my talent and passion for writing. I quickly became addicted to the freedom of vulnerability and authenticity through writing.
As the blog took off, a group from LSU, the SoleSisters, asked me to share my story. I was not a speaker and had never shared my story publicly. Despite some hesitation, deep down I knew it was my calling. However, I didn’t just want to share my story. I wanted to host a scale-smash, but not just any scale-smash. I wanted this to be a party and celebration of life and true beauty.
Southern Smash was born on November 16, 2012, and it has been a whirlwind ever since. What began as a wild idea of mine, turned into my pay it forward mission.
We are now a non-profit aimed at raising eating disorder awareness through our signature scale smashing events and panel discussions. I also travel and share my story and of course, I still write—constantly.
If I were to travel back in time and tell my 20-year old self that one day I would be writing and speaking publicly about my eating disorder, that girl would have keeled over just from the thought of saying the words “eating disorder” out loud. Ed silenced that girl in shame and I will spend the rest of my life making up for all those years she did not have a voice.
I no longer live with duct tape over my mouth. I live free and in the light of recovery. Recovery gave me dreams I never knew were possible and then helped me to make those dreams my reality. I am proof that recovery is possible and that dreams (big ones) really do come true.
With love and gratitude,